Monday, August 28, 2017

Bored Into Reading

Or just bore them into it
I think I've cracked the magic ingredient to fluent reading.

I did my MA dissertation on what makes a child an avid reader and my research seemed to support the current thinking of the day in the year 2000. You need to read to your child when s/he is young, have plenty of interesting books at his/her level readily available and easily accessible, have adult readers in the home who model reading as an enjoyable pass-time, you need to validate reading as a worthwhile activity, and you need to provide time to read.

Simple and obvious when you think about it. So I did all that but my daughter did not become an avid reader. Some of it I put down to the fact that she is working in two languages and so she doesn't get the practice in reading English at school. A lot of it was to do with the fact that the computer was far more enticing, not to mention a ready supply of dvds.

We only have the one living room where the tv and dvd player are situated. By the middle of the holiday I was sick of hearing Harry Potter and various other favourites over and over again. The computer that DD played on, broke at the beginning of the summer and I deliberately didn't get it fixed. After a few weeks I was beginning to regret it.

Towards the end of the holiday I thought we'd better start getting back into some sort of routine. I always remember my friend's brother, Philip, telling me how the rule in his house was the children had to be in their bedrooms by 8 pm. I once mentioned this in a blog post and wrote 8.30 because I thought no one would believe that teenagers would go to their rooms at 8. But later I confirmed it with him and they did actually go to bed at 8 all the way through school. On the other hand, it wasn't strict lights out at 8 pm so I expect they did homework or read, but I know for a fact that there were no screens involved, or phones. (Although nowadays teenagers have their own screens and phones in their bedrooms so I don't know if you could enforce that with older kids.)

I started the in bed by 8 pm rule. We often don't manage it as we're out late or in the middle of a game. I read to DD at 8 and leave the bedroom at about 8.30. Then she's on her own and she's bored stiff. Not yet having early mornings and being, like me, a night owl, she's just not tired at 8.30 pm. I tell her she can read. And she started to read because there was nothing else to do. She sometimes does sudoku or tells herself elaborate stories but mostly she reads.

So there you have it. The missing ingredient was BOREDOM! There had been clues of course. When I did my MA dissertation I did mention that many of the children I spoke to were orthodox Jews so they had little else to do on a Shabbat afternoon but read. And my youngest nephew became a book-a-day reader because he wasn't into sport and his older brothers commandeered the tv for watching football and every other sport at every opportunity.

Now I need to figure out a way to bore DD into practicing her recorder, doing her maths workbook, tidying her bedroom, and washing the dishes. Unfortunately every time I suggest one of these worthwhile activities she'd rather read a book.


  1. We had the same rule when I was a kid - I finally made it to a 9pm bedtime by the time I hit 15. There were 5 of us kids and my parents just wanted some peace and quiet in the evenings so off to bed we were sent - but yes, didn't necessarily have to be lights out for the older ones - so we read.

    1. We are struggling with 8 (although I'm with her until about 8.30 reading to her). I must try harder.